OpinionIsrael at War

Gaza and ‘the decade after’

We need a long-term vision, not arguments about "the day after" the Israel-Hamas war.

Detail of the mosaic floor of the ancient Great Synagogue of Gaza. Credit: Avishai Teicher via Wikimedia Commons.
Detail of the mosaic floor of the ancient Great Synagogue of Gaza. Credit: Avishai Teicher via Wikimedia Commons.
Gary Schiff
Gary Schiff is a Jerusalem-based resource consultant and guide connecting Israel and the United States.

Israel needs to have a true vision not of “the day after” but rather “the decade after” the war in Gaza. Everyone in this neighborhood needs hope. Once Israel describes the “decade after” vision, we can debate how to get there. Those who developed the Abraham Accords had that kind of vision and we need such forward thinking here and now.   

There are major issues with focusing only on “the day after.” We are in the middle of a war in which we pray the IDF, with God’s help, will soon return the hostages, return security to the Jewish communities on the border and remove Hamas from power.

It is important not to be too specific about “the day after” or Hamas will kill its potential replacements, as they already have already done to two clan leaders. In addition, those who disagree with Israel’s immediate plans will no doubt work to sabotage those plans. 

Let’s explore “the decade after”: What would life be like in Gaza? What is possible?

A look back might help. Many assume that, before the more recent Jewish settlements in Gush Katif, Gaza was never part of Israel and there was little Jewish presence there. This is patently false. Abraham and Isaac lived in this neighborhood. The Bible includes Gaza in the territory allotted to the tribe of Judah. Samson brought down the Dagon temple in Gaza. 

Though King David fought with the Philistines, Gaza was part of his kingdom. Fast forward to the reign of the Maccabees and Gaza was again part of the Jewish nation. The Nabateans brought their famous spices through the Negev to the port of Gaza.  

Over the last two millennia, while under non-Jewish rulers, Gaza had a vibrant Jewish life. The Great Synagogue of Gaza dates from the early sixth century. Its beautiful mosaic floor was relocated when Israel evacuated Jewish communities in 2006 out of fear the mosaic would be destroyed by the locals. It is now in the Good Samaritan Mosaic Museum. The mosaic’s image of King David can be seen at the Israel Museum.

Until Hamas erased it, the primary Gaza mosque had a painting of the Temple menorah, a shofar and the four species.

Gaza City had a significant Jewish presence during the Mamluk and Ottoman Empires and was the home of several Kabbalists. In the 1700s, Gaza City’s Chief Rabbi Israel Najara wrote “Yah Ribon,” a song still sung weekly at Jewish Shabbat tables around the world. It describes God’s return to Israel and Jerusalem. In the late 1800s, the first wave of Aliyah included a significant religious community in Gaza.  

How can the past, even a robust Jewish past, help us envision “the decade after”? For starters, we could imagine a future Gaza that includes a Jewish presence. Imagine tourists retraveling the ancient spice route through the Negev to the port in Gaza or visiting the actual site where Samson brought the house down. Imagine a reconstructed Great Synagogue of Gaza with the mosaic floor replaced, where Jews can sing “Yah Ribon” together. Imagine the Chabad House of Gaza City. 

For Muslims in Gaza, imagine a “traditional” Gaza culture (perhaps with some Emirate-like local clan leadership) coupled with a vibrant economy including tourism and a school curriculum that doesn’t preach hate. Imagine the Gaza mosques delivering messages focused on individual improvement instead of glorifying murder. 

You may ask how this can ever become a reality. But after 1948, did anyone contemplate Jews being able to pray at Rachel’s Tomb or the Cave of the Patriarchs, or live in Judea and Samaria and grow grapes in those hills as promised in the Bible?  

A real vision of “the decade after” will only take shape if Hamas is soundly defeated and Israel oversees the area. Our enemies’ defeat will prompt them to engage in some introspection and potentially reevaluate and reconnect to the validity of those passages in the Quran that call for a Jewish state. 

It may sound far-fetched, but it is not. Wars with clear victors cause the defeated to look inward. It happened after World War II in Germany and Japan. After Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, a clan from Hebron that had a history of Jewish practices approached then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan about the possibility of joining the Jewish nation. Reevaluations can also happen in Islam.  

We need a long-term vision, a “decade after” plan that will create a peaceful and awesome future for our people and the people of Gaza.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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